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Crimea crisis could trigger Arctic cold

Warships in the Russian Northern fleet's main base Severomorsk north of Murmansk on the Kola Peninsula.

Russia’s actions in Ukraine could cause problems for international cooperation in the Arctic, says Iceland’s Prime Minister. Putin’s armor bearer, Dmitri Rogozin, calls for rearming after “overt threats” by NATO.

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Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin posted the following message on his Facebook profile on Saturday: “After the overt threats by the United States and NATO nobody will doubt the necessity of rearming our army and fleet and of reviving our defense industry and military science.” 

Rogozin is in charge of Russia’s defense industry and was Russia’s ambassador to NATO from 2008 to 2011.

Last week, BarentsObserver reported that the United States plans to cancel participation in the trilateral Northern Eagle warship exercise in the Barents- and Norwegian Seas, supposed to also include vessels from Norway and Russia’s Northern fleet. Defense Secretary Check Hagel to reporters in Pentagon on Thursday that he has ordered suspension of all military-to-military engagements and exercises.

“Earlier this week, I directed the Department of Defense to suspend all military-to-military engagements and exercises with Russia. And yesterday, I announced a series of steps [the department] will take to reinforce allies in Central and Eastern Europe during this crisis,” Hagel said according to a news brief posted on the Department of Defense’s portal.

Iceland’s Prime Minister, Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, said to reporters in Canada this weekend that Russia’s actions in Ukraine could cause problems for the most important cooperation arena for the eight Arctic nations, the Arctic Council which Canada currently chair. 

“This has a ripple effect, even though the actual events (in Crimea) are far from the Arctic,” said Gunnlaugsson, quoted by The Canadian Press. “Clearly, it has made many players in the Arctic quite worried about developments and whether they might be a sign of what is to come.”

Another move that could make east-west relations in the Barents Region colder is Moscow’s mulling to ban US nuclear arms inspection under the New START treaty. RIA Novosti reported Sunday that Russia’s Defense Ministry is considering a ban in US inspections of Russian strategic nuclear weapons, of which hundreds are deployed on the Northern fleet’s Delta-IV nuclear powered submarines based in Gadzhievo north of Murmansk. Other hundreds are stored across the bay from Severomorsk, also that on the Kola Peninsula.

The New START agreement was signed by President Barack Obama and the-President Dmitri Medvedev back in 2010. The treaty envisages curbing the two countries arsenals of strategic nuclear weapons by half by 2021 and opens for joint on-site inspections.